What are some of the differences between classical drama and Elizabethan drama?
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The differences are of two kinds: generic, and character-depicting. Elizabethan drama, technically those dramas written during Elizabeth I’s reign, but more commonly meaning the explosion of theatre life in London in the late 16th and early 17th centuries, certainly drew from the traditions of classical drama, technically Greek and Roman drama, but more commonly referring to the dramas following Aristotle’s definition as laid out in the Poetics, but added genres beyond the strictly “tragic”, such as tragicomedy, romantic comedy, and histories (it should be remembered that Aristotle’s definition of comedy was lost to history). When following “the classic” rules of tragedy, such as “a person in a high place falls”, the Elizabethan playwright interpreted the rules rather loosely(for example, Hamlet is not the highest in rank in that play), and allowed dramatic conflicts that did not necessarily lead to “catharsis.” The characters of Elizabethan dramas were psychological depictions of people of every class; in fact, many scholars attribute Shakespeare (the ultimate Elizabethan playwright) with “inventing” stage characters based on psychological profiles. Finally the make-up, and therefore the target audience, of Elizabethan theatre differed from classical audiences in commercial and sociological ways, and the motives for writing an Elizabethan play were no to win a prize, but to make a living.
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